How to Make Time Visible… and Feel Less Anxious Too

All too often, the teens with whom I meet tell me, “Oh, I don’t have much to do. I can remember it all in my head.”

Sometimes that’s true! But more often, we discover that they DON’T have their “to do list” as down as they think they do.

In this video, I share a story about a client who recently gave me this line, how I handled it, and what he discovered in the process!

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:

With the start of the new semester, a client I’ve been working with a couple of years now was telling me how he was sure that this year he didn’t need to get any time management systems going again this year. So I shared some brain facts I have in my Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying and then I asked him, given the facts I shared and how the working memory needs things to be as clean and clear as possible if he’d be up for just practicing a planner to make time visible. So we devised a time tracking sheet that worked for him.

Gretchen Wegner | How to Make Time Visible | Reduce Anxiety | Time Management | Organization

After we created this blank chart, which we called the week sheet, he looked up everything he needed to do and what he needed to take care. After a little bit and it was all mapped out, some of which he needed to my help to be reminded of – mainly the major due dates for the future – I asked him, “How does it feel now that we’ve put all of this out there?”

Gretchen Wegner | How to Make Time Visible | Reduce Anxiety | Time Management | Organization

His response, I felt, was absolutely amazing. He said, “Before it felt fine, but now it feels better. I couldn’t actually tell how much anxiety I was feeling before, but now that we have it all mapped out in that chart, I don’t have to struggle to remember anything anymore and I didn’t realize that was causing me anxiety, but now that I feel better I realize it was.” I thought that was so smart of him, as a junior in high school, to be able to articulate that kind of understanding of his experience.

If you want more tips to reduce anxiety or time management, then I have tons of them in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

Always Write These Two Things In Your Planner

Did you know that the WAY you write something in your planner can have a big effect on whether you actually follow through?

My client recently discovered that there are two things he needs to write in his planner for every major assignment — the WHAT and the HOW of what he needs to do.

Check out the video to find out more.

Hey there, don’t have time for the video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a short summary.

I LOVE it when I get blown away by the concise way my clients articulate something they’ve learned in our sessions. I had a college student who was a freshman in college and in high school, he’d never used a planner. So we were working on making sure he planned out his assignments. In this instance, he came to the session and said he had an essay assignment, but not to worry he was great at writing essays. I asked him to take it out and just review it, and it turned out, while the essay was simple itself, the process for completing was a bit more complex than he had thought.

This led my client to realize that when he’s writing an assignment into his planner he needed to add 2 very important details. He needed to note, not just WHEN he would work on the assignment and when it was due, but also HOW he would complete it. For his essay, he needed to plan out a few different topics to discuss, as well as take the time to go to the library and research the topics chosen. So in his planner, he put down when he would figure out his topics, and when he would go to the library to research them, and when he would do the final writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t just want to plan around WHEN you will do something, you also need to plan out HOW you will complete what you’re working on when you plan to do it.

If you’d like more time management tips, click here to find out more about my online course.

Are Your Homework Plans Realistic?

Do you should on yourself when making plans?

During most of my coaching sessions with teens, we spend at least some of our time making plans for the next week. We break big projects down into smaller parts; we decide what study tasks will be done on which days before the test.

However, invariably my clients will make plans that they can’t keep! They tell me what they think they SHOULD say, rather than what they can realistically accomplish.

Here’s one way I handle that during our sessions:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your back, here is a quick summary:

As you can imagine I do a LOT of planning with teenagers. Close to, if not more, than half of my sessions are planning out the next week or month based on what homework they’ve been assigned. Typically we look at what assignments they have upcoming and then planning backward to figure out what they should be doing each day/week/month as necessary.

During these planning sessions, quite often we’ll make a plan and my clients will say, “Sure I’ll do that”, or my personal favorite, “Sure I’ll do that Friday afternoon.” The vast majority of my clients and students I know, don’t want to do ANYTHING after school on Friday, even as a teacher I don’t. They are saying what they think they “should” say, instead of being realistic and making a plan they will actually follow through on.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Homework | Plans | Planning | Clients | Assignments |

The way I handle this is by asking them, usually a few times, “Are you “shoulding” on yourself? Are these plans actually realistic?” I try to make sure they understand they don’t have to “should” on themselves. It won’t benefit them to make a plan they know they won’t follow through on, or that they will just end up procrastinating for later. So we revise the plan using my triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, to make a more realistic homework plan.

If you want to know more about the triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, you can find it in the “Overcome Procrastination” section of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

How to Start Homework After Taking a Break

Are you a fan of taking breaks? Me too. But how do you keep yourself from taking a break that’s way too long?

This is a common problem for many of my clients (honestly, it’s hard for me, too).

Recently, though, a client’s love of music helped inspire this new time management idea.

Check out the video, or read the summary below. Will this anti-boring idea work for you?

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I understand. Here’s a quick summary:

We all love taking breaks when we’ve been working hard. The problem with taking breaks, especially from homework, is that they are often too long. Afterward, we aren’t motivated to get back to work. A recent session with one of my clients lead me to a new idea for a potential fix to these issues: A Break Playlist.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Life Coach | Life Coaching | Breaks | Homework | Homework Break | Time Management

The goal is to create a few playlists to listen to when you’re on break. You want to make a few so that you don’t get bored of your playlist. The playlists should be the length of your break so that you know you have to get back to work once they end. You also want them to all end on the same motivational or energizing song so that you feel motivated to get back to work.

That’s just one of the many time management tips available in my course, which you can learn about by clicking here.

10+ Productivity Apps for Scattered Students with ADHD

Gretchen Wegner | ADHD | Academic Coach | Academic Coaching | Apps | Time Management | Distraction Management | Study | Research | Break | Breaks | Students | Productivity

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Smartphone apps can be a great support, but also an annoying distraction, for students, especially those suffering from ADHD.

Gretchen provides a list of 10+ apps and suggestions for how to use them so that students maximize productivity and minimize distractions.

Tune into the episode to hear the details about how to use each of these apps. However, for your convenience, here is the list of the ones Gretchen mentioned:

Tune into Gretchen’s podcast and learn more about these apps by clicking here.

Learn to Hold These Time Management Tasks Sacred

Argh! Do you ever save time on your calendar for important tasks, but then allow other, less important tasks to creep in? I did that today, and it was beyond frustrating!!

Recently, I’ve been learning more about a concept called “Deep Work,” and my experience today taught me about the importance of holding certain kinds of work tasks sacred.

Check out the video to watch and see see a visual of my plan before and after interruptions, and what I’m vowing to do next time to keep this from happening.

 

Be sure to visit the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying!

A Handy Tool for College Students to Start the Semester

I’m excited to share with you a handy tool for college students.

This was taught to me by a real live student (shout out to Harrison!). He is a sophomore in college and interned with me over the summer.
I LOVE this tool that he makes for himself, and I wanted to share it with you all — including a tweak or two that I’d make to it.

Check out the video, and then PLEASE forward it to any college students you know could benefit from this handy little one-page organizational tool.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

8 Tips for When to DIY vs. Hire an Academic Professional

GRETCHENPODCAST122

Should you hire a tutor, coach or consultant? Or should you DIY for just a little longer?

During this episode, Gretchen and Megan help you decipher when it makes sense to spend the big bucks and get professional help…and when you don’t need to!

Specifically, they discuss the following 5 types of academic experts that families often like to hire, who work outside the school systems:

  • Tutors
  • Standardized test prep professionals
  • College application consultants
  • Academic life coaches
  • Mental health professionals

In considering when it makes sense to hire out, and when it makes sense to DIY a little longer, Megan and Gretchen discussed these 8 questions families should ask themselves to decide:

  1. How important (e.g. life or death!) is the situation?
  2. What resources does the school already provide, and is it enough?
  3. Is this a topic for which there is limited time and chances in order to succeed?
  4. Are your home relationships deteriorating because you’ve been doing it yourself for too long?
  5. Will it be more convenient to work with this other person, and are you willing to pay for convenience?
  6. How motivated is the student who will be receiving the support?
  7. What are your family’s finances?
  8. Would you save more in the long run if you had a professional help you get started?

Got any questions or concerns on this topic, or any other? Want them addressed on our podcast (free coaching! yes!)? Please email us at collegepreppodcast.com and tell us all about it.

“This podcast was originally on www.collegepreppodcast.com

How to Read a 400 Page Book in Two Hours, Part 2/4

Reading is hard for students!!

Especially reading books that you don’t necessarily choose for yourself…and at an assigned pace that isn’t natural for you. So it’s important to have some tricks up your sleeve for how to read large quantities, ESPECIALLY if you are a college or grad student.

This week I discuss creating a roadmap for finding important information and main ideas in books. Once you understand the structure of how an Author writes, it is easier to dive in and start reading efficiently.

Watch to find out how!

Just to recap so far:

Tip 1. Pay attention to the table of contents
Tip 2. Pay attention to “where” the Author puts their main ideas.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.


Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How Not to Waste Your Time in College

Have you ever worried about how well you (or your teen!) will handle all that free time in college?

It can be a harsh transition to move from the structured nature of high school to the unstructured days of college.

A college client of mine was struggling with her tendency to to accidentally spend hours and hours of time watching TV and online, and so we came up with the following plan:

 

How do you handle open-ended time without losing your productivity? Got any favorite tricks? I’d love to hear them, comment below!

How to Have Time to Study and Relax on Vacation

I hope you’re enjoying your time off, and aren’t secretly stressed out because of homework and/or studying that needs to be done!

Recently, a client and I chatted about how to have time for work AND fun over the holidays, and I thought I’d pass along the good ideas that came up in our session:

Once you watch the video, I’d love to hear from you: how do you balance your studying with having fun?

How to Establish a Homework Routine on Weekends

Homework. Blech. No one likes it. Especially on weekends.

So how should students manage their time during their precious weekend time? When is the best time to do homework, and when is the best time to relax?

In my experience, most students want to save their homework until Sunday night. While understandable (Homework is distasteful! Why not push it off until the last possible moment?), this habit often gets them in trouble, as they usually have more homework than can possibly be accomplished between 6-9pm on Sunday.

I know many parents who want their kids to get homework started on Saturday mornings. If a student is motivated to do it, this is a fine suggestion. However, I’m a big believer that kids need a break from school work, just like adults do. I’d HATE my life if I worked every day of the week; why should it be any different for kids?

Sunday ritual to the rescue!

Recently I stumbled upon this blog entry by Cal Newport about how to create a ritual that starts on Sunday morning and continues for the rest of the day. As Cal says, “Friday and Saturday are a time to be social. Sunday morning and afternoon is a time for you to regroup, get organized, and get prepared for the upcoming week.”

The ritual he proposes includes a big breakfast, a swing by the library to do some planning for the day, getting some exercise, and then some time later for thinking through the upcoming week.

Cal writes for college students, not high school students, and so the Sunday ritual he proposes is quite a bit more elaborate than I’d advocate for younger students. You’ll note that it doesn’t include time for homework, just for planning for the week (I’m guessing that Cal proposes trying to get most homework done during the school week itself).

However, I love the idea of creating a routine, and I especially love that the routine includes exercise. I recommend that students design their own rituals, and include time for:

  • planning for the week (in the morning)
  • exercise (in the late morning)
  • homework (after exercise…given that the brain is most ready for learning after at least 20 minutes of exericse)

Of course, family schedules are complex, and this routine may not work for everyone. So often my coaching clients will tell me, “I wanted to do my homework when we planned, but my mom made me help her around the house.” Perhaps this is true! Perhaps it is ALSO true that the teen didn’t tell her mother that she HAD a plan in the first place.

Regardless, having a Sunday ritual that works for the whole family will make these kinds of excuses a moot point, and lead to greater productivity AND a greater sense of control. Not to mention, the opportunity to relax and enjoy Sunday evening without having to finish last minute assignments.

If you are a parent having trouble getting buy-in from your teen about establishing Sunday rituals, a few sessions of academic coaching (to brainstorm ideas with a non-annoying adult) might be just the thing. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Do you have a weekend routine? Tell me about it in the comments!

P.S. Did you enjoy this post? Get more helpful and happening ideas by signing up for free email updates!

A Sneaky Trick for Getting Your Teens to Use Their Calendars

Every year when I meet with new coaching clients, parents complain that their kids don’t  manage time well. I often ask: how do you model time management to your teen?!

Parents can usually tell me what their personal  method of managing their calendar is like. They often have a family system for consolidating appointments in one place, like a calendar that hangs in the kitchen. However, usually the parent is the one managing everything, and the teen is a passive recipient.  Rarely can parents point to an established process for doing calendaring alongside their teen.

 

Family Meeting to the Rescue

Every year I suggest that families have a family calendering meeting once a week. Many families I work with tell me that it’s too difficult to get everyone together for this kind of a meeting. However, I contend that if you can’t prioritize time management for your whole family, how can you expect your child to do it for school? I honestly believe that, if families took me up on this suggestion, it will totally transform their ability to plan efficiently together…and simultaneously build a strong time management habit in their teen.

Here’s one way to conduct your meeting:

Every week at the same time, ask everyone to bring their planner (or blackberry, iphone or laptop) to the meeting. The sole purpose of the meeting is for everyone to share what is on their calendar during the upcoming week, to record any appointments that effect them directly, and to problem solve any calendering conflicts that emerge.

I highly recommend that this meeting is a collaborative effort. It is not a time for parents to be the authoritarian controlling the calendar. Rather  it is a time for everyone — parents, teens, and younger kids — to share what is going on in the week, and make sure that anything that effects them is noted in their planner.

Here’s an example:

Parent #1 might note that (s)he will work late on Tuesday, and so Parent #2 writes that down in his/her calendar. Pre-teen Sister notices that this means that she won’t get picked up  on time from basketball practice, and so asks Older Brother if he can pick her up instead.

Then Parent #2 reminds Older Brother that he has a dentist appointment on Wednesday at 10:30am; when he writes it down, he notices that he has a Spanish test that day. He makes a note to talk to his teacher about an alternate time to take the test. Pre-Teen sister reminds the family that she has a project due on Thursday, and will need a ride to the library on Monday night. Parent #1 offers to drive.

Everyone writes everything down in their own calendar.

Why is this a magic solution to family calendaring?!

The family meeting:

  • Models effective time management, as well as collaboration and peaceful conflict resolution when issues come up
  • Helps kids and teens build a personal habit in the context of a family habit. After all, if the family can’t be organized enough to refer to the planner once a week, why should the teen be that organized on on his or her own?
  • Gives a time for kids to think ahead about school projects (which many are not naturally inclined to do on their own)
  • Requires that kids (and parents!) actually have a planner, refer to it, and write in it (another habit that teens aren’t likely to do on their own).
  • Expects that family members come to the meeting already knowing what their week will look like. That means keeping up the calendar in between family meetings!
  • Models a great technique teens can use later in life, in roommate situations or community living.

Finally, a common complaint I hear from teens is that, “My parents didn’t tell me I had to go to Grandma’s house on Thursday night, so I couldn’t plan ahead!” or “My parents didn’t tell me I had that dentist appointment, so I couldn’t plan ahead with my teacher.” Of course, it’s highly possible that the parents in question DID tell the teen, but he or she didn’t HEAR them. However, it’s also possible that mom or dad totally forgot to tell the teen what’s coming up. The family makes both these possibilities a moot point by providing a time to get everyone on the same page.

Have you experimented with family meetings for calendering? Does your family have another method that works for you? Please comment below and tell us your story!

P.S. Was this useful? For more great ideas and helpful hints, sign up for free email updates by clicking this link: http://eepurl.com/i10p

3 Reasons Why Coaching Kids on Skype is as Good (or Better) Than Meeting In-Person

Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade live, in-person interactions for anything!

So I was surprised when, after my first three coaching sessions on Skype, I realized there are some coaching tasks that work BETTER virtually than in person.

1. I get to be IN the kid’s study space…without ever leaving my home! Take my recent Skype client, Roxie.  The computer in her house is in a room with a couch, which Roxie playfully calls her “couch of learning” (see it in the background, there?).  Seeing a kid’s study space helps me better envision how to support her in being an effective learner.  Plus, as we are discussing better study habits, the client is sitting in the room where she does her studying… reinforcing these habits in the exact location that she will need them. My own mini version of place-based learning!

2. The student and I can literally be “on the same page.” When we meet in person, the student and I have a white board that helps us be visually “on the same page.” When we meet virtually, I use a Google Spreadsheet as our visual space. When we meet in person, the white board gets erased at the end of the session; however, when we meet virtually, the Google Spreadsheet saves all our work. Both the student and I (and their parents!) have a running track record of the work we’ve done.  See the pictures below for some examples of how I use the spreadsheet.

3. Virtual coaching forces me to be a more active coach. In order to keep the student engaged for the full hour of the session, I have to think of more activities for my client to do. Every five minutes I’m asking my client to do something new; when we’re in person, there’s a lot more gabbing and a lot less doing (although I imagine this will change; skyping is helping me learn new habits that I can transfer to the in-person coaching session).

Here are some examples of what Roxie and did in our last session:

We always begin our session with a “show and tell.” Here Roxie is proudly showing off her entire research paper organized into paragraphs on rings!! Evidently she kept on telling her mom, “I haven’t lost a single card!” Roxie struggles with organization, so this is a huge feat!

We’ve been working on study methods that are more fun. Last week I asked Roxie to draw pictures for all her science key terms. The above picture describes the wet environment in which most fungi thrive (see the raindrops inside the house? See my big grin as I listen to her explain the drawing?).

Google Spreadsheets now includes a drawing tool. I love asking kids to draw pictures and then guess why they are relevant. To that end, I asked Roxie to use her drawing tool to create an eye, ear, hand, and lips. We then discussed how each “sense” is a study technique, and I asked her to label each of her drawings. Finally, we applied these four techniques to planning for an upcoming geography test:

First, I had Roxie fill out the yellow column by identifying different tasks her teacher expected her to do. Although we didn’t have time to fill out the whole chart, we at least brainstormed some possible study techniques for how she might remember the various resources that the rainforest provides. By the time we finished, she was surprised that there were so many interesting options for how to prepare for the test.

 

At some point in each session, I have kids insert data into a graph so that they can watch their grades improve as their habits become ingrained. Here Roxie boosted her grades by a) using a homework folder to ensure she always turns her work in, b) ensuring she does her homework at a consistent time each day, c) packing her backpack the night before so she doesn’t forget anything important, and d) making sure her locker stays clean. As a result, check out these upward trending lines:

Roxie and I live on opposite sides of the country. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have expected that coaching from afar could be as effective and satisfying as it is.

If the upward trending lines above aren’t proof enough that virtual coaching is effective, here’s another story: at the end of yesterday’s session, we’d covered all the info I’d intended in five sessions. I asked Roxie to chat with her mom about next steps.

The email I received the next day reported the following: Roxie loves the study tips and wants one full more session to make sure her skills are rock solid. Then she wants several more shorter check-ins, to make sure she’s following through with all her great new habits. What a smart idea!

A final thing I love about Skype: virtual sessions can only work with clients who really want to work with me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be motivated to stay engaged with a computer screen for a full hour. What a pleasure it is, for me to work with clients who are so dedicated to their own growth. At the ripe ol’ age of thirteen. Go Roxie! (Which, by the way, is not her real name.)

What’s an Academic Coach?!

From Academic Coaching

There’s an area of my professional life about which I’ve been strangely silent on this blog: my life as an academic coach for teens.

I’m not sure why I’ve been so tightlipped about this amazing work; maybe I’m afraid others will find my musings boring. I mean —  time management, organization, and learning strategies? For teens? Biiig whooop! Who cares?

But the truth is this: I care. Very deeply. So do the parents. The teens care, too (for the most part; they want to be successful. They really do.). The work we do is amazingly transformative, for the teens but also for me. It’s time I start telling our stories.

Academic Coach Versus Tutor: What’s the Difference?

But first things first. Most people have no clue what academic coaching is. “So you’re like, uhhhh, a tutor?” they ask.

And the truth is — not really. A tutor helps teenagers understand subject-specific content. Want help memorizing and practicing the quadratic equation? Talk to a tutor.

An academic coach, on the other hand, helps kids troubleshoot their learning process so that they can eventually learn the content on their own. The goal is self-sufficiency. Need to figure out why you didn’t get the quadratic formula when the teacher taught it in class (and how you might get it next time)?  Talk to me.

Here’s another example: Want someone who knows a ton about US History and can help you answer the essay question? Talk to a tutor. Need help organizing your thinking and writing process so you can research and write the essay by yourself? Talk to me.

Maddy Learns a Writing Formula

This summer I had several clients who sought me out for extra help. Uhhh, well that’s only partially true. Their parents sought me out. Luckily, I’m gentle, fun, and full of good ideas. So by the end, the kids admitted it wasn’t that horrible. And they even learned a thing or two that they could actually use.

As one parent reflected:

The information you have provided is packaged in a much more user friendly way that Maddy can put to much better use.”

The information I packaged so well was, simply, this:

1. What are some basic writing formulas that help essays write themselves? (Maddy complained of working really hard on all her essays, but usually getting disappointingly low grades).

2. Given how much she detests doing homework  and her busy sports schedule (but also, given her goal to get B’s her sophomore year), how can she plan her afternoons so there is enough time for both sports and homework?

Maddy left my office much more confident about her approach to writing as well as to time management. She was psyched about the strategies that would help her work smarter, not harder. I can’t wait to find out whether this school year feels different than last!

Conrad Learns How to Advocate For Himself

Another client I saw this summer was a young man. Headed off to college after four years attending the “resource” class in high school (that’s the fancy term for “special ed”). This young man and his parents were concerned that he’d flounder during the rigor of college.

When I met Conrad, I was surprised that he barely understood his own learning disability. We spent most of our time reading through his Neuropsychological Evaluation, translating all the scary psycho-babble into teen friendly language, and role playing how he might explain it all to his professors? After four short sessions, Conrad’s mother raved:

Honestly, you taught my son more in regard to his learning style than he learned in years in his high school’s Resource program or with private tutors!!! I wish I had used you earlier.

Again, it will be fun for me to follow up with Conrad and find out whether freshman year felt more manageable. He certainly left my office in higher spirits than he entered!

It’s All in the Organization

It turns out that a lot of my job revolves around helping kids be more organized — organizing their time, their stuff, and their thinking.  Many teenagers just need a gentle but straight talking adult to help them troubleshoot their processes.

I feel so blessed to spend my days helping teens become self sufficient learners. I can’t wait to use this blog to tell more of their stories.